Ethiopia has begun developing its own social media platform to rival Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, though it does not plan to block the global services, the state communications security agency said.
Ethiopia has been engulfed since last year in an armed conflict pitting the federal government against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the Tigray region in the country’s north.
Supporters of both sides have waged a parallel war of words on social media.
The government wants its local platform to “replace” Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Zoom, the director general of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), Shumete Gizaw, said on Monday.
Shumete accused Facebook of deleting posts and user accounts which he said were “disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia”.
International human rights groups have criticised the Ethiopian government for unexplained shutdowns to social media services including Facebook and WhatsApp in the past year.
Shumete declined to specify a timeline, budget and other details. Reuters quoted him saying: “The rationale behind developing technology with local capacity is clear … Why do you think China is using WeChat?”
He said Ethiopia had the local expertise to develop the platforms and would not hire outsiders to help.
Social messaging app WeChat, owned by China-based Tencent Holdings, is widely used in China and is considered to be a strong tool by Chinese authorities for monitoring its population.